LEGAL MATTERS: What You Can (and Can’t) Do About Robo Texts
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Thanks to a series of lawsuits brought by consumer advocates since 2009, a 1990’s era federal law prohibits businesses from sending you canned text messages without your permission. The law is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). It always restricted robo calls and prerecorded calls but consumer lawyers have successfully argued it also applies to SMS and text messages sent to your mobile phone. The law specifically prohibits unauthorized canned text messages generated by a computer.
- Individual text messages a person at the business actually types and sends you.
- Texts sent by emergency authorities.
- Texts protected by the 1st Amendment from political campaigns, pollsters and most not-for-profit organizations.
- Texts companies send you with your “expressed consent.”
I cannot imagine anyone ever giving their “expressed consent” to receive text messages. But I also cannot imagine why someone would want to hoard cats so maybe there is someone out their pining for more canned text messages. For the rest of us, beware of companies trying to get you to agree to more texts: the “consent” must be to canned messages and, effective October 16, 2013, the consent must be in writing. The ‘writing’ can be electronic – i.e. a response to a text or e-mail – so be especially careful about responding to companies trying to trick you into consenting.
- Never reply; not even with ‘unsubscribe.’ The text may not be from who it claims to be from and replying will just get you more spam.
- Sue the bastards. You can recover $500 or more per text plus your attorney fees.
- Complain to the Federal Trade Commission. It takes lots of consumer complaints to get them to act but every now and then they crack down on the worst offenders.
- Notify your mobile phone service provider by forward the text to 7726 (that spells out SPAM) so they can investigate. You can also block texts from specific numbers but that is a much more involved process that varies depending on your phone and service provider.
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